April 30, 2004

Essential SF Movies

Over at SFSignal, JP is looking for a list of movies that every wannabe SF fan should see. His first list contained 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, and the Matrix. Predictably the comments soon lost sight of JP's initial criteria and turned into "my favorite SF movies of all time are . . ."

As a result, JP is seeking to define a list of "Essential SF Movies," but this time broken into subcategories:

1. Newbie friendly
2. Must be seen
3. Hidden gems
[4. - Optional -for compleatists only]

Let's see if we can help him out. See extended entry. . .

I am only listing movies I have seen, not movies I know I should see but haven't seen yet. I've put an "NF" after the ones I think belong primarily in another category but that are also newbie friendly.

Newbie Friendly
ET: The Extra Terrestrial
Jurassic Park
War of the Worlds (1953)

Must be Seen:
2001: A Space Odyssey
Star Wars (NF)
Blade Runner
A Clockwork Orange
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (NF)
Planet of the Apes (the original from my birth year - 1968) (NF)
Aliens (NF)
The Day the Earth Stood Still

Hidden Gems
Colossus: The Forbin Project
The Iron Giant (NF)
Silent Running

That's a start.

Posted by JohnL at 11:27 PM | Comments (1) |

More Heroes

You know, when I blogged about Fabrizio Quattrocchi, I felt a little guilty singling out his heroism, when I knew that there were many stories of individual courage and honor left untold. I suppose that I, as a civilian (without military background) was moved by how Quattrocchi, a civilian, had met his death like a man -- the way I hope I would in similar circumstances -- a brave and defiant man.

Like many of us, I suppose I expect our military to be brave and honorable, so I inadvertently take the stories of individual military heroism for granted.

I'm glad that Ted points us to this moving story of the actions of several individuals, each heroic in their own way, to honor fallen hero PFC Chance Phelps, USMC.

I love Western civilization, and we owe its existence to the kinds of sacrifices that men like PFC Phelps have made on our behalf over the last 230 years. We should not and cannot take that for granted.

Posted by JohnL at 09:06 PM | Comments (0) |

April 28, 2004

Who Are the Britons?

Cue Graham Chapman voice: "We are all Britons. . . "

At least those of us who like fish and chips and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding.

Guess that makes me British, too, tho' my Scots blood rebels at the notion.

I also like tea (I'm a teasipper, after all) and sausage-and-egg breakfasts.

Posted by JohnL at 09:43 PM | Comments (0) |

That Was Me With "Halo"

Today's Get Fuzzy (one of my favorite comic strips) displays the effects of video game addiction.

While Rob is playing Rugby in the strip, that was me with Halo just a few months ago.

Hmm. Wonder if there's a Rugby game for Xbox? Yes. (Thanks, Amazon). Maybe I'll have to check that out.

Posted by JohnL at 06:32 PM | Comments (3) |

April 27, 2004

Facehugger Toy

I've seen this charming toy at several sites, but most recently at the Llama Butchers' place.

Posted by JohnL at 11:07 PM | Comments (0) |

April 26, 2004

Princess Bride Quiz

Westley / The Dread Pirate Roberts

Which Princess Bride Character are You?
this quiz was made by mysti

Posted by JohnL at 10:52 PM | Comments (1) |

April 25, 2004

One For Mr Mouse

I like Jalapeno Jack, Camembert, and Blue Cheese.

Velveeta is best for Chile con queso.

White cheddar's good, too.

I wonder if Mister Mouse knows about this? (Seems too obvious, I know)

Posted by JohnL at 09:56 PM | Comments (2) |

First Rocket Shoot

Here's one that should warm Ted's heart.

Today, my elder son's Webelos den met at a local park to shoot off rockets that they had built last week. This was my son's first rocket to build and today was his first rocket launch.

The weather was perfect, except for a slightly stronger wind than ideal. Sunny, temps in the mid-70s.

The rockets that the boys built were simple little A-engine no-parachute numbers. Several didn't go very high, and a few exploded when the engine's parachute charge went off, but my son's survived all four launches (and crash landings!) intact.

I've included some pictures in the extended entry.

Moon 042504.jpg
Our goal. . .

Cape Plano.jpg
Cape Plano

Launch Prep.jpg
Getting ready for launch

Ready for liftoff.jpg
Countdown starts. . .


Successful Recovery.jpg
Successful recovery!

Posted by JohnL at 09:28 PM | Comments (1) |

April 22, 2004

Rough Day

I usually make it a point not to blog about work. It just seems like the safest policy. And in any case, I almost always leave my work entirely at the office. Also, other people make law more interesting for people to read, so I focus on the random minutiae of my life.

Today, though, "work" followed me home in the sense that I have been burdened by ongoing personnel issues. I can control my work and its quality, but I can't control the actions and reactions between and among my coworkers and subordinates.

I hope someday to be General Counsel where I work, but after a day like today, I wonder if I have what it takes to manage people.


Now, back to regularly-scheduled programming. . .

Posted by JohnL at 10:04 PM | Comments (2) |

April 21, 2004

Imperial Star Destroyer For Sale

Check it out.

Not to be even more of a geek, but I think they have the scale wrong. That ship is way too small for 4" action figures' scale.

And anyway, I thought Darth Vader's flagship was the Super Star Destroyer Executor (not that I troll Star Wars websites).

Posted by JohnL at 10:30 PM | Comments (0) |

Skateboarding Dog

Via Catallarchy, a funny video of a skateboarding dog. (Click the picture to open the video).

Posted by JohnL at 10:20 PM | Comments (0) |

April 20, 2004

Good News About Jake

Well, life was quite interesting today. In case you missed the second update below, Jake the dog escaped our yard last night. We spent most of the day worrying, wondering why we hadn't picked up the crate so he could sleep indoors, wishing we had already "chipped" him (we're putting in a tracking chip), and otherwise blaming ourselves for normal dog behavior.

The good news came about 3:45 today. A homeowner about 3 miles away had Jake in his back yard. Here's the rascally runaway, looking quite pleased that he has gone from an outside dog to a house dog in less than 24 hours:
jake 042004b.jpg

My wife just said from the other room (without having read over my shoulder), "Look at him. So far he has gotten nothing but his way. He's not in the backyard!"

jake 042004.jpg

But we love him. Funny how it works like that.

Posted by JohnL at 09:30 PM | Comments (0) |

April 19, 2004

Certified 29% Geek

You are 29% geek
You are a geek liaison, which means you go both ways. You can hang out with normal people or you can hang out with geeks which means you often have geeks as friends and/or have a job where you have to mediate between geeks and normal people. This is an important role and one of which you should be proud. In fact, you can make a good deal of money as a translator.
Normal: Tell our geek we need him to work this weekend.

You [to Geek]: We need more than that, Scotty. You'll have to stay until you can squeeze more outta them engines!

Geek [to You]: I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain, but we need more dilithium crystals!

You [to Normal]: He wants to know if he gets overtime.

Take the Polygeek Quiz at Thudfactor.com

(Hat tip: The Llama Butchers).

Posted by JohnL at 10:15 PM | Comments (1) |

Space Exploration Personality Types

Also via The Eternal Golden Braid, this assessment of the three personality types of space geeks.

I think they omitted a very important type - the Heinleinian/Pournellian. Shares many traits with the O'Neillians, but also believes in a strong military role in space.

Posted by JohnL at 10:03 PM | Comments (0) |

Yet More Paper Models

Fred Kiesche at The Eternal Golden Braid seems to share many of the same passions as I do - space, SF, Legos, and models.

Late last week he linked to a page of assembled paper models that look nothing like paper (see, e.g., this version of the M-41 pulse rifle from Aliens).

Posted by JohnL at 09:54 PM | Comments (0) |

Newest Member of the Lanius Family

Jake 041904.jpg

This is our new dog, a rescued stray we have dubbed "Jake."

By the vet's estimate, he is an 18-month-old Golden Lab/German Shepherd mix.

He's had a hard life and is a little skittish around men, but has the gentle Labrador disposition with the kids and my wife.

He's already worked his way into our lives and you can expect some more stories and pictures about him in the future.

Update: I see that Ted's been doing some dog blogging recently, too. Small world.

Update 2: Sad development -- we didn't have a crate for him yet, so Jake slept in our backyard last night. We had an empty yard this morning -- he dug out under the fence. We've been looking for an hour, but no luck so far. Sad kids, sad dad. Will update later.

Posted by JohnL at 09:42 PM | Comments (1) |

April 15, 2004

Page 23 Quiz

OK, Mr. Sandefur has done it, as have the Llamabutchers (tho' their quiz had to do with page 18).

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

As with Mr. Sandefur, we have many books in the study here, so I grabbed the first one at eye level to my right off the bookshelf: "It is this exhaust steam blowing up through the stack which makes the familiar choo-choo-choo-choo sound of a locomotive." Morgan, Alfred. The Boys' Book of Engines, Motors and Turbines. (1946, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York).

Let's try again, but this time off the left bookshelf: "No wonder Tep had taken them north so slowly!" Rutherfurd, Edward. Sarum. (1987, Crown Publishers, New York).

Posted by JohnL at 11:25 PM | Comments (1) |

Fabrizio Quattrocchi, Hero

I haven't blogged much at all about the war against the barbarians. I have too much trouble moderating my tone. Anyway, others like James Lileks daily say what I would want to say.

But today I read a little more about Fabrizio Quattrocchi, the 36-year-old pipeline security guard from Italy, who was shot in the neck and killed yesterday by Iraqi "insurgents."

Before he was murdered, he was forced to dig his own grave. He then tried to rip off his hood and shouted, "Now I'll show you how an Italian dies."

The world needs more Fabrizios and fewer psychotic death cult adherents.

Posted by JohnL at 10:59 PM | Comments (1) |

April 14, 2004

Space Art eCards

Here's a nice gallery of space art and photos, ready to email to your friends.

I particularly like the Rockets and Astronomy galleries.

(Hat tip: Hobbyspace).

Posted by JohnL at 11:12 PM | Comments (2) |

Strine Cuisine

Following up on the earlier chili recipe discussion, Alan Brain pointed me to an Australian menu he summarized last year.

Although the presentation is a little "nouvelle" for my tastes, the selection and mix of native foods looks positively mouth-watering.

While you're at Alan's site, be sure to leave him a congratulatory note on his recent degree in Info Tech.

Posted by JohnL at 10:59 PM | Comments (1) |

April 13, 2004

I Want One

Via Popular Science, a car that's a boat.

Very cool.

(Hat tip: Gravity Lens)

Posted by JohnL at 11:28 PM | Comments (0) |

Der Kommissar's in Town Uh Oh

I've been meaning to add a link to the Commissar's blog for some time now, and thanks to the Llama Butchers' recommendation of this excellent post on proletarian linking practices, I have finally done so.

Posted by JohnL at 11:18 PM | Comments (0) |

Musical Reflections

I haven't done nearly enough musical blogging recently. Thanks to my recent addition to Lynn's blogroll at Reflections in d minor, I have been inspired to share some of my musical background.

I play keyboards: piano, organ, and synthesizers. I also know a little bass guitar and can sing passably. I am trying to teach myself drums, but I don't practice consistently enough (I only have a practice pad) to be making much progress.

My parents brought me up in a house full of music. My mother and older sister both played piano as early as I can remember, and our stereo was on a fair amount (not quite as much as the TV, but enough to make a definite impression).

I started taking piano lessons in 1976 from a neighborhood teacher before I quit in frustration in 1979 or so because of my lack of progress. A few years later (late Summer of 1983, to be exact) I saw a video of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer's rendition of Fanfare for the Common Man from their Works tour. Seeing Keith Emerson playing the GX-1 synthesizer got me real interested in playing keyboards again, so I spent the next few years teaching myself how to play once more.

I acquired the classical works that Keith Emerson covered and tried to teach myself how to play them. I also memorized a couple of Bach's preludes from the Well-Tempered Clavier and most of Fuer Elise by Beethoven. Enough to play to impress my friends and have some fun.

In my senior year of High School, my parents bought me a Korg DW-8000 synthesizer for Christmas. I still have it, and it is a real gem -- very fun to program, especially for Emerson-style leads.

In the Autumn of 1986, as a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, I read an article in the student newspaper about a performance of the silent movie The Phantom of the Opera over Hallowe'en weekend, to be accompanied by an improvised sound track on Piet Visser's gigantic tracker organ in UT's Bates Recital Hall. The article had a picture of the organ.

I said to myself, "I have to play that organ."

So I impetuously walked into the office of the music building and asked if I could play it! They laughed and directed me to the Professor of Organ, Frank Speller, whose teaching studio was conveniently located across the hall from the office. I hung around outside the studio for about half an hour until Dr. Speller concluded his lesson. I introduced myself and boldly asked if I could play the big organ. He laughed and asked if I had ever played organ before.

Not seriously, was my answer. And that was fudging things a bit!

Well, to make this long story shorter, I faked my way through the Bach WTC Prelude in c minor by memory on a piano, and Dr. Speller welcomed me into his studio.

Just two-and-a-half years later, I was performing Cesar Franck's Piece Heroique, Buxtehude's Praeludium in g, and L'Anglais' Epilogue from Hommage a Frescobaldi (Pedal Solo) on that very organ.

And how I got from there to where I am now is another, utterly boring story.

Posted by JohnL at 10:18 PM | Comments (2) |

April 12, 2004

I Should Write For Slate

I just read this article at Slate about Bob Dylan's new role as Victoria's Secret pitchman.

Seems familiar, no?

Posted by JohnL at 11:59 PM | Comments (0) |

Air Show Pics

Stephen Green is back and blogging and links to this great set of pictures from a recent airshow at Edwards AFB.

My favorite is the side-by-side flyby photo of the A-10 Warthog and the P-51 Mustang.


Posted by JohnL at 11:45 PM | Comments (0) |

CSS Issues

Little Miss Attila pointed out in a comment that her browser (IE/Mac) rendered this blog so that my right links column was impinging on the text in the main body. I've tried to fix that by defining actual (rather than percentage-based) div and margin widths in the stylesheet; I hope the layout looks OK now. Please comment if it doesn't!

(I already know that my Texas flag banner is broken in Opera - there's a big gap between the blue field and the white and red stripes - but it renders perfectly in IE6/Windows and Firefox, the two browsers that I figure most readers probably use).

If you are a Mac user with Safari or IE (or Firefox!) I would love to hear how the page looks. One reason I'm trying to stick to pure CSS and avoid HTML tables is to prove that an amateur like me can stick to standards and best design practices.

P.S. Attila Girl also helpfully pointed out that I didn't have an email link on my page. I have now fixed that. Please feel free to send me an email if you don't want to leave a public comment.

Posted by JohnL at 11:26 PM | Comments (3) |

April 09, 2004

Actuarial Jokes

As a lawyer, I am accustomed to some good lawyer jokes.

But I never knew there were actuarial jokes.


Posted by JohnL at 11:00 PM | Comments (7) |


Ever wondered how to read military ranks?

The DOD has a listing of the enlisted and officer ranks for each of the armed services, along with pictures of the insignia.

Posted by JohnL at 10:20 PM | Comments (0) |

Alan Brain on International Affairs

Australian Alan Brain, sometime author for the Command Post, has a long and thoughtful piece on the revolution in International Affairs currently underway in the world.

He briefly lays out the historical development of and reasons for the western fetishization of "national sovereignty" as a reaction to the suicidial wars Europe committed against itself from the 17th through the 20th centuries.

He traces the development of the "religion" of transnationalism from WWI on and explains that the United Nations' failure to live up to its obligation, its promise to enforce collective self-defense, has given rise to a new doctrine of "righteous retribution" by a world power -- the United States. He has some misgivings that the vigilante USA is doing what the lawful authorities should be handling, but in all seems supportive of America's efforts in doing what must be done.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Posted by JohnL at 12:19 AM | Comments (1) |

April 08, 2004

Bob Dylan Knows Victoria's Secret

So Bob Dylan is the new pitchman for Victoria's Secret.

In the new ads, his face is intercut with shots of Brazilian model Adriana Lima cavorting in a bra and the [ridiculous] VS trademark angel wings. You can watch a video of the ad here.

Bob Dylan's voice and face are two things I'd rather not associate with sexy lingerie, thank you very much. I much preferred the "What is Sexy" campaign (about which Jonah Goldberg had a few entertaining words).

I also think they got the wrong Brazilian supermodel. They should have gone with this blog author's previously-noted favorite, Alessandra Ambrosio, who looks a lot cuter and lacks the awful collagen trout pout that so many models and actresses, including Lima, have these days.

(Confession - I cribbed the title of this post from this Swiss article -- Bob Dylan kennt Victorias Geheimnis -- about the Dylan spot. Don't you love the Internet?)

Posted by JohnL at 11:59 PM | Comments (1) |

Rutan Closes In On the Prize

Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne lit off its rocket again today, this time for 40 seconds. No official details have been released by ScaledComposites yet, but reports indicate that SpaceShipOne climbed past 100,000 feet at Mach 2.

Congratulations to Rutan and crew!

Posted by JohnL at 10:11 PM | Comments (2) |

April 07, 2004


Not much more in the way of substantive posts tonight; I'm still tinkering with CSS and HTML to get my new blog home just the way I want it.

Let me know what you think of the new look.

Posted by JohnL at 11:47 PM | Comments (2) |

Right Wing Eye

For some reason, we libertarians are often mistaken for right-wingers.

While I think the whole "[Whatever] Eye for the [Whatever] Guy" is getting pretty tired, the personalities spoofed in this funny little flash animation are anything but libertarian, and are the reason I refuse to identify myself as a conservative.

(Hat tip: Crooked Timber).

Posted by JohnL at 11:44 PM | Comments (0) |

Big News For X-Prize

Today, Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne received a suborbital launch license from the FAA.

My birthday is coming up in a little less than a week, and I can think of no better present than to see a privately-built and -owned spaceship launched.

Update: The FAA actually issued the license on April 1, 2004, as explained in this press release.

Posted by JohnL at 11:33 PM | Comments (0) |

April 06, 2004

Texas Taste

Robert the Llama Butcher criticizes a chili recipe for its lack of beer. I would agree, except for his recommendation of Lone Star beer.

As far as I'm concerned, the "real" national beer of Texas is Shiner Bock, brewed in the Spoetzel Brewery in Shiner, Texas (pop. 2,100).

Another good thing to include in a real Texas chili is novelty meat -- venison, rattlesnake, bison, you name it. Maybe even llama?

Yip yip indeed.

Posted by JohnL at 10:36 PM | Comments (7) |

April 05, 2004

I Already Knew This. . .

Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by JohnL at 08:24 PM | Comments (0) |


Hello fellow Munuvians!

Thank you for inviting me to join this lively and lovely community.

I'm working out some technical matters, and hope to begin posting new material soon.

Posted by JohnL at 05:42 AM | Comments (1) |

April 02, 2004

Homeowners' Associations

Timothy Sandefur doesn't like them very much, even though he prefers them to zoning laws. In my previous law firm life, I represented several condominium associations, so I have some familiarity with the enforcement side of things.

As a matter of principle only, I prefer HOAs to zoning laws, but just barely. And for practical purposes, unless you can prove laches or inconsistent enforcement, it is likely easier to modify bad zoning regulations (simple majorities at the ballot box) than restrictive covenants that run with the land (usually requiring a supermajority or
unanimity to modify).

Posted by JohnL at 08:51 PM | Comments (0) |

April 01, 2004

Six Month Bloggiversary

I see that today is Timothy Sandefur's one-year bloggiversary. Congratulations, Timothy, and keep up the good work.

Today also happens to be the six-month milepost for me. Let's have a look-see at my first post.

I haven't talked much about cycling, coaching, or theology. I do think, however, that this has turned into a cohesive narrative on life, the universe, and everything. Please leave me a comment. Let me know what I've done well, what I can do better.

More Legos? More domestic bliss? More law and policy stuff? More of the same?
In any case, I've had a great time, and I appreciate knowing that I have a few loyal readers. Thanks.

Posted by JohnL at 10:53 PM | Comments (0) |

Praise Allah

Another Photoshop, funnier than anything he did with Dean.

(Favorite caption: "Hello Clarice").

Posted by JohnL at 10:51 PM | Comments (0) |

Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster Recipe

Jonah Goldberg is one of the few reasons I check into the Corner semi-regularly. The other day, he posted a cool-looking cocktail recipe in the process of pointing to this twisted movie.

The recipe called to mind the recipe for a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (the effect of drinking of which is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick) that I prototyped back in college. First, the original recipe, as defined by Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

I translated that as follows:

(The approximate ratios in a large blender were: 4 rum : 1 everclear : 1 Schnapps).

A so-called friend of mine has some super-8 film footage of the aftermath (this was pre-miniDV handicam days, people). Oh, yeah, and I managed to get a decent education, too.

Posted by JohnL at 10:38 PM | Comments (5) |

Conservative Pablum?

Heh. Must not have read very deep into my archives. Oh well. At least OhMyGoff thinks my blog is "great any time of day or night."

I wonder if Michael has seen this? (hat tip Instapundit).

Update: Originally filed under this guy's "Conservative Pablum" portion of the blogroll, I am now filed under "Odds and Ends and Odd Little Ends
---great any time of day or night."

Posted by JohnL at 09:38 PM | Comments (0) |

Ia! Ia! Sanrio Fhtagn!

Hello Cthulu, via Ambient Irony.

Posted by JohnL at 09:20 PM | Comments (0) |